The suspense is over for the culinary competition – Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants – to determine the top 50 best dining establishments located in Asia.
Hopefuls and Winners
Although the official name of the competition is “Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants”, the list was expanded last year from 51 to 100 places to reflect a greater diversity of tastes and regions.
The publication of the shortlist naturally generated a wave of enthusiasm and high hopes among the candidates, all of whom were probably dreaming of making it into the top 10, or even of achieving the ultimate accolade of reaching the podium.
The winners of this tenth edition were revealed last Tuesday and celebrated with a series of live events in Bangkok, Macau and Tokyo. The suspense was intense during the ceremony when the countdown reached the top five.
The Chairman (China), last year’s No. 1, took fifth place; Le Du in Bangkok came in at No. 4, giving Chef Ton two spots in the top 10, an absolutely unique achievement.
Then came the announcement of the coveted first place and it was Den (Tokyo) – already ranked as the best restaurant in Japan since 2018, coming in second or third overall in the previous four editions.
Award-winning chef Zaiyu Hasegawa began cooking at the age of 18 in the kitchen of a ryotei (traditional Japanese restaurant) in the Kagurazaka district of Tokyo. Eleven years later, he opened Den.
According to the chef, who is visibly moved, but not really surprised to be in the top 10, his success can be explained by an ongoing curiosity: “Rather than sticking to the elegant but often impersonal traditions of high-end kaiseki cuisine, I offer a deeply personal version of Japanese cuisine drawing on a variety of influences, whether from home or gleaned from travels abroad, but always using prime ingredients from the ocean, pastures and forest,” he explains on the Den website.
Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants was created in 2013 by the Academy of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, an influential group reuniting more than 300 food critics in Asia, each selected for their expert opinion in the industry.
The competition includes six voting regions – India and Subcontinent; Southeast Asia – South; Southeast Asia – North; Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau; Mainland China and Korea; and Japan.
|This initiative, supported by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, was launched at a time when gastronomic tourism was booming. The objective of the promoters of this initiative was “to publicize promising chefs and culinary trends and to highlight the subtlety and complexity of the various cuisines of the region – and of course, those worth discovering”|
“Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants” list is published by William Reed, which also manages “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants,” launched in 2002, and “Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants,” launched in 2013.
In May 2020, “50 Best” – the organization behind the lists – launched the “50 Best for Recovery” program in support of restaurants around the world that are emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic and are looking for concrete advice and support.
There are also a multitude of categories in this 50 Best organization ranging from best bars to discoveries to MENA’s (Middle East & North Africa’s).
In 2021, still in the spirit of supporting a struggling industry Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants – in association with S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna – has announced “Essence of Asia”, addressing a category of restaurants representing the spirit of Asian gastronomy.
The Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants award has become a benchmark in gastronomy. Since 2013, the list has well-positioned restaurants rated by as many as 350 chefs, professionals and food experts as the best. For William Reed, which operates in a field – review site and competition – that is more than crowded, the “50 Best” reference is a genuine compass for gourmets and lovers of fine cuisine and an exceptional opportunity for restaurateurs to significantly gain visibility and notoriety.
Due to restrictions, the annual culinary gathering, usually a mix of festivities and gourmet meals, has not been held in preference since 2019. The 2020 and 2021 editions were online so not very tasty… This year, however, the organizers of 50 Best offered a novel format: they unveiled the list in a simulcast to the public and to the winners in Macau, Tokyo and Bangkok.
In 2015, Wat Damnak restaurant in Siem Reap entered this prestigious list of the 50 best restaurants in Asia at number 50.
This was a first for a restaurant in the Kingdom. Chef-owner Joannès Rivière had then flown to Singapore to attend a gala evening at the Capella Resort, in the presence of several of the world’s most famous chefs.
“I am honored, it is really a great success, it definitely puts Siem Reap on the international culinary map. It’s good for Siem Reap, but also for Cambodia,” said the French chef at the time, adding:
|“The country is really worth visiting when it comes to food. We have the products. We have the culinary culture. We have everything people could want. I just don’t think we are the best at promoting ourselves here in Cambodia, especially in Siem Reap.”|
On this occasion, the chef also took the opportunity to say:
“I would like to see this award as a message to Cambodian chefs, it proves that it is possible to run a world-class restaurant with a menu based on local products. Young Cambodian chefs should pay attention to their grandmother’s cooking and the products around them.
Back on the map
In 2019, Joannès Rivière’s restaurant was again included in the “50 Best” list in the “Disovery” category, a second consecration for the talented chef who has since opened a restaurant in Phnom Penh.
As a matter of fact, Joannès Rivière’s restaurant in Siem Reap was so successful that it was necessary to make reservations several weeks in advance, thus becoming one of the most popular restaurants in the province.
CUTS Restaurant at Rosewood Phnom Penh
In 2021, Rosewood Phnom Penh also announced the appearance of CUTS Restaurant in the 50 Best Discovery list.
According to Rosewood, “the sophisticated steak and seafood grill had received high praise from Academy members, who described it as ‘every meat lover’s dream’ while praising its wine cellar, which has the country’s largest collection curated by Eden Gnean, Cambodia’s top sommelier.”
Commenting on CUTS’ award, Mr. Daniel Simon, General Manager of Rosewood Phnom Penh, said he was delighted with the recognition by global industry peers and thanked his team.
“We are very proud of the very high international standards we have set for ourselves in terms of dining, as well as our impeccable personalized service to create a truly memorable experience. The World’s 50 Best Academy validated our hard work with this fantastic result,” he said.
The Topaz restaurant in Phnom Penh
This year, Topaz, known for its refined and sophisticated French cuisine, entered the 2022 Asia list at number 90.
Pov Sopheak, the Cambodian who serves as Topaz’s executive chef and who has worked for the restaurant since 2002, said he was delighted with the achievement.
“Honestly, my heart is overflowing with joy. This is the second time in over 20 years of being a chef that I have won such an award. The first time was in 2011, when I placed 4th at the MLA Black Box Culinary Competition in Australia.
“I am very proud of the work my team and I put in to make this list. I can’t thank them enough – every single person who works at Topaz – because I know this could only have happened with everyone’s efforts,” Sopheak told our partner The Phnom Penh Post.
Lina Hak, who joined Topaz in 2005 as a part-time secretary before becoming general manager and director of operations a few years later, said she was also delighted with the international recognition:
“We are extremely honored and this award serves as a benchmark for us to continue our quest for excellence through continuous improvement.”
This nomination was particularly significant because of the difficult conditions affecting the sector since the outbreak of the pandemic. One thing the restaurant did not want to compromise on was the level of quality of the cuisine served:
“I see a lesson for others in the commitment to high standards, which has ultimately paid off. What I find very interesting is that the younger generation of Cambodian chefs and restaurateurs can look at what we have accomplished and know that it is possible – with the right commitment, the right vision and the right people on board,” concluded Lina.
Written by Christophe Gargiulo